BIRN Bosnia Journalist Shortlisted for Journalistic Award in Slovakia

7. May 2024.14:19
Nino Bilajac, a journalist at BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been nominated alongside his colleague Tomas Madlenak for this year’s Slovak Journalistic Award in the ‘written investigative journalism’ category.

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Tomáš Madleňák and Nino Bilajac. Photo: BIRN BiH

Bilajac and Madlenak were nominated for a series of pieces about Slovak policemen and the head of the country’s counterintelligence service who have taken refuge from  legal proceedings in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Madlenak, a journalist with the Investigative Center Jan Kuciak, ICJK, was also nominated for another investigative piece in the same category.

In a joint investigation by BIRN Bosnia and ICJK that was published last year, Bilajac and Madlenak discovered that two officials involved in an internal struggle within the Slovak police are now living in exile in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They also established why the men have not been extradited back to Slovakia.

In an investigative piece published in February, Bilajac and Madlenak, along jointly with BIRN Bosnia journalist Enes Hodzic, found out that former Slovak counterintelligence head Peter Gasparovic, who was convicted of corruption and served two-thirds of his sentence, requested asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina while on conditional release, which protected him from potential extradition.

Bilajac said the two investigative pieces involved a lot of effort, energy, time and stress.

“During our work, we were turned down by domestic institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as if nobody was particularly interested in how high-ranking security officials from Slovakia had escaped from justice and were hiding in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Or it was just their defence mechanism due to an omission allowing three corruption convicts to come and stay in our country in a very short period of time,” he said.

Bilajac explained that, with the help of their fellow journalists from Slovakia, they talked to lawyers, politicians, sociologists and prosecutors.

Madlenak said the nomination was particularly important because it was a joint project.

“Before being killed [in 2018], [Slovak journalist] Jan Kuciak was someone who was advocating for cooperation between journalists, especially investigative ones. To me, this nomination confirms that cooperation between journalists is working, we can genuinely be colleagues, not just competitors, even if we come from different media outlets,” he said.

He also said that such cooperation was important “considering events in our country and internationally with non-democratic regimes and movements being on the rise”.

“I think it is time to suppress our desire for exclusive news and our own ego and start working together. Investigative journalism is under unprecedented pressure and if we want to persevere, we must work together,” he said.

    Lamija Grebo

    This post is also available in: Bosnian